George Air Force Base Asbestos Exposure Superfund Site

Asbestos contamination at the George Air Force Base in California exposed thousands of service members and residents to health hazards. Learn more about the superfund site and is affects on the community.

Photograph of George Air Force base in California

George Air Force Base Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma

George Air Force Base was initially established during World War II to train pilots and bombardiers, spanning 5,347 acres across San Bernardino County, California. Its mission was to support tactical fighter operations and provide training for aircrews and maintenance personnel. In order to meet mission requirements, the base engaged in a variety of support operations, such as aircraft maintenance and firefighting training, which involved the use and disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous materials. After World War II, officials discontinued all flying operations as part of a nationwide demobilization. The base closed in December 19992, but unfortunately, the damage from the base had already been done.

The base is cleaning more than 30 hazardous pollutants onsite, including old jet fuel in the water supply and excessive levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate or perfluorooctanoic acid, commonly known as PFOS and PFOA. Due to the toxic base environment, many George Air Force veterans, workers, and family members have been diagnosed with debilitating diseases like mesothelioma. It is disheartening to know that people who gave up their lives for our country were left with adverse health effects due to negligence. Learn more about the history of exposure at George Air Force Base and how toxic chemicals negatively impact residents of the base.

Extent of Asbestos Usage and Exposure at George Air Force Base

It’s unfortunate to note that the base’s mission involved engaging in a variety of support operations, like aircraft maintenance and firefighting training, that required the use and disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous materials. Over the course of at least 50 years, these operations resulted in the release of various contaminants of potential concern (COPCs) into the soil and groundwater, which could potentially impact human health and the environment. It’s disheartening to think about the impact this military superfund site could have had on the local community and ecosystem.

Within the base, including in the groundwater and soil, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found several risks, including:

  • Asbestos
  • Benzene
  • Chlorinated pesticides
  • Construction debris
  • Dioxins
  • Ethylbenzene
  • Jet fuel
  • Medical wastes
  • Nitrates, including those from sewage ponds
  • Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
  • Pesticides
  • Petroleum hydrocarbons (TPHs)
  • Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs)
  • Tetrachloroethene (PCE)
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE)
  • Total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPHs)
  • Xylene (BTEX)

Current Status of George Air Force Base

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the State of California, and the US Air Force have been working collaboratively to clean up the military Air Force base since the signing of the Federal Facilities Agreement (FFA) in October 1990. To address the issue, officials have established three operable units (OUs) for the site, each with its unique challenges. The Air Force has been working as the lead cleaning agency, with support from the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the EPA, the FFA Base Closure Team, and the California Department of Toxic Control (DTSC).

The Air Force has been operating a pump-and-treat (PAT) system to strip the contaminated groundwater, especially the water that had migrated off base. This system has been effective in removing the contaminants and has prevented further spread of the pollution. In addition, the removal of jet fuel and other VOCs from the soil has been ongoing throughout the years.

To ensure the safety of the community, the EPA has set activity and use limitations to reduce exposure to contamination and guide human behavior, such as restricting certain residential uses. Mesothelioma Vets understand the significant impact that contamination can have on the affected communities, and we empathize with those who have been affected by this unfortunate situation.

Veterans who served at George Air Force Base may be eligible for VA compensation. To find out if you qualify, speak with a patient advocate today.

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Gdansk military port.

Health Impacts of Contaminants at George AFB

Several perfluorinated chemicals, such as PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid), which are among the most widely used fluorochemicals, have been linked to various health issues, including cancer, damage to the immune and reproductive systems, thyroid and renal illness, and other health problems. These health concerns are associated with even low levels of exposure to these chemicals.

Additionally, officials found high levels of asbestos at the military base, which can lead to adverse health conditions like mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. From an initial review conducted by the EPA, reports concluded that “[t]here are 1,970 buildings on-base (including 1,641 housing units) with a total square footage of floor space of 4,629,926, approximately 10 percent of which has been surveyed for asbestos. Forty percent of those facilities tested had asbestos-containing materials (ACM) (80% nonfriable, 20% friable).”

Common cancers and medical conditions associated with the military base include:

  • Asbestosis
  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Liver cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Miscarriage
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Thyroid disease and cancer

Legal Recourse for George AFB Asbestos Exposure Victims

It’s heartbreaking to know that individuals who were exposed to asbestos at George Air Force Base have suffered immensely. But the good news is that they do have legal options for seeking compensation. Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits for mesothelioma against responsible parties such as asbestos product manufacturers and contractors can help victims recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

It’s also heartening to know that veterans who were exposed to asbestos during their service may be eligible for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs, while asbestos trust funds established by bankrupt companies provide another avenue for compensation. Seeking assistance from organizations like Mesothelioma Veterans can connect victims with experienced asbestos attorneys to navigate the legal process effectively and make it a little less overwhelming during a difficult time.